Thursday, August 22, 2013

Deleted scenes: Year one

It won't have escaped your attention that I'm not a professional photographer. Professionals don't stubbornly and stingily persevere with the same cheap camera long after its LCD display has broken, meaning they're unable to play around with the settings or even see the poorly framed pictures they've taken until they get back to their hotels. I don't owe you fancy pictures.

But sometimes I'm pleased with photos I've taken, as are thieving bastards apparently. Whether it's down to the serendipity of animals striking austere poses, the sunset picking out details in satisfying ways or me managing to pull a face that doesn't look smug, I'll try to find ways to include as many photos as I can that fit whatever agenda I'm going for in the relevant blog post, giving the nicest ones top billing.

For every photo transferred from my camera to my hard drive there are 10 deleted, and not all of these survivors make it to the internet, especially in the early days. When I've dragged old folders down from the proverbial loft to dredge out any unused pictures of Dave in a cave or Dave from a slightly different angle, I kept coming across photos that I forgot I had, which I never shared with the world because I was worried about storage space or irrelevant pictures distracting from the narrative arc of the post. I can take this much too seriously sometimes.

So here's a selection of previously unseen photos, videos and writings from my first year of travelling, after those first few countries I rebelliously tackled without a camera and excluding Thailand and Malaysia too, which were too big and get their own summer specials. It's guaranteed to be entirely free from coherent plotting beyond 'Dave saw some things and aimed his camera at them.' This post could just as well be titled 'Misc 1.'

Unseen Egypt

I uploaded a shockingly utilitarian three photos each from my balloon trip over the Western Desert and my excursion to Abu Simbel in Nubian territory, apparently not feeling confident about my ability to record these spectacles as well as other people before me. I'd soon lose my anxiety about that, or there'd be no point photographing anything.

I'd started to take desert roads for granted after spending time in Israel (pre-camera) and Egypt, but this photo of the journey from Aswan to Abu Simbel brings back mostly unpleasant memories tinged with slight wonder at the desolate expanse surrounding me. It's the sodding Sahara!

I'd accidentally done research into the turmoil of the area and overheard a passenger observing that the bus driver hadn't paid the police to provide supposedly compulsory motorcade support. It turned out fine.

In Aswan, I overpaid a dodgy 'guide' to let me illegally take photos inside the Tombs of the Nobles, then I didn't even use them. I don't know whether that guy thought I spoke English, French or something else, as his commentary on the murals was a mixture of all three.

I evidently planned to take some photos of Cairo with my new camera when I went back there to catch a flight, but ultimately decided to extend my stay in Alexandria so I only had to endure the capital for one night. I found this tentative introduction to a Cairo post that was never used, if we're really going to be completist:

Travel evidence - Cairo (November 2010)

I hate going backwards. Whether it's returning to the family nest, resurrecting old relationships or watching Battlestar Galactica a second time through, I've always been wary of turning back the clock.

Now that I'm trying to see as much as I can in the short span my awful nutrition will permit me, even the idea of turning back a time zone feels intuitively wrong (and forget returning to Europe any time soon). But needs must as the devil drives planes into buildings, and paranoid border controls in the Middle East means there was nowhere to go after Aswan except backwards.

So here I am again in Cairo, back in the Sara Inn Hostel where everyone's always happy to see Mister David, waiting for a flight to #*. I can't honestly say Cairo comes top of the list of cities I'd like to have visited more than once in this existence, but at least it's not bloody Athens. Even sparkling Tel Aviv was pretty unbearable in its sterile, beach bum way.

* Typical lack of preparation

Unseen Taiwan

When you write a celebratory blog post after going up not quite the world's tallest building, you might want to feature a photo of the view, even if it's a bit blurry. Just an idea

I also elected not to pay tribute to the sacrifice of protesters killed in Taipei's 2/28 Massacre by not sharing photos I'd taken of the Peace Park's memorials during my visit (I made a collage of birds instead)

I'd clearly got over any remaining storage/worthiness anxiety by the time of my first childish day out to Taipei Zoo, when it seems I was compelled to compile a comprehensive catalogue of incarcerated wildlife. Still, I missed out one of the most entertaining spectacles: the adorably uniform school kids we dubbed 'mint kids' for their colour and predicted taste.

I've only experienced this cannibalistic urge one other time in my life, when I was convinced the robes of Burmese child monks would make them taste exactly like strawberry milkshake. I didn't put it to the test, I'm not mad.

I enjoyed the inappropriate name of this potato snack

In the two and a half years since I visited Taroko Gorge, I've taken every opportunity to illustrate any vaguely Chinesey blog post with leftover photos. There's still some mileage yet

Unseen Indonesia

People fishing on Lake Bratan,
in the part of Bali that isn't infested with alcoholic Australians in singlets

I've never succeeded in taking a decent photo of the Moon,
this early morning mooning mosque is the best I've managed

Hopefully-sleeping monkey in the Sacred Monkey Forest

Dave on a volca(ve)? No. My lungs contain about 50% sulphur here

Dave properly inside another volcano. Click the button for panoramification

I also wrote a proper summary of my feelings at the end of my first year of travelling, which was the first draft of this post until I decided summing up an entire year with a pithy milkshake review would be funnier.

One year later... (September 2011)

Hooray, I've been travelling for a year! After making one too many accidental references to the Scottish people as 'Scotch,' I was bundled into a tartan plane and exiled from Greater England at 7.20AM on Saturday 18 September 2010. Like a bird with one wing shorter than the other, I've been heading generally south-east since.

Oh dear... I seem to have gone quite far. How did that happen? There was certainly nothing resembling a plan. I've done quite a lot on this year 'away' (but where is the 'home' I'm away from?)

Some people ask whether I'm bored of travelling, which seems like a contradiction - the whole point of going to these new places is to stave off boredom.

Some people ask whether I miss 'home comforts,' which is impossible too, when so many places in the world are essentially, depressingly, just like the UK (apart from the weather).

Some people ask me if I miss British food. These people are idiots.

What have I learned?

Damn, I didn't realise there'd be an exam. I would have paid more attention.

While I'm still largely the same misanthropic, thrifty, borderline-obsessive skellington I was back in the UK (though apparently even skinnier now), getting away from a life of offices and flats has definitely been good for me. It would be so difficult to go back to that - let's hope I never have to.

As well as the overruling importance of freeeee-dummmm (I'm still Scotch at heart), one of the most important things I've learned is how to relax, which has also taught me more about the sort of life I want in the long run. Basically, this one. Basically, a basic one.

I've partly managed to live up to the daydreams I used to have about leaving the 21st century behind and going to live in a wooden shack - at least, as close as I can hope to get to the ideal if I want to keep working on the internet (and more importantly, writing this blog) and refuse to learn how to catch and skin rabbits. But I don't need those other fangled contraptions and distractions.

My eating habits have changed too, partly because of the climate - in the UK I practically existed on chocolate biscuits and ice cream, but they get unpleasantly melty in the heat. Because it's also cheaper to eat at food courts than cook myself, I haven't had to suffer my own cooking for about 10 months now, and I can't remember the last day I didn't eat either rice or noodles (usually both). Asian food's just better, isn't it?

So what's next?

Maybe there'll be some minor changes as the years go by, like I get a tragic illness or have children (potayto potahto), but I'm generally happy with me now. And travelling is great, but it's not some soul-enriching quest that I should feel obligated to keep up just because I'm able to, like some people have irritatingly decided for me.

I like change, but I'm not on the run. I could happily stop somewhere for a year or three if it was interesting enough - I just haven't found another Edinburgh yet.

This is the life I've always wanted, really - even when I 'settled' in flats in the UK (sometimes for as long as six months), I practically lived out of a suitcase and tried to avoid planting too many roots or building too many bridges. This was especially challenging during the nine weeks I was temporarily contracted for gardening and extension work on the Forth Road Bridge, but I simply refused to pull my weight.

Travelling on my own around the world, I found myself. This was a metaphysical shock at first, but it turned out I was just looking at a poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.

Yeah, the milkshake thing was funnier.

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